Artist: Jacob Marling
Title: The May Queen (The Crowning of Flora)
Oil on canvas
Overall: 30 1/8 x 39 1/8 in. (76.5 x 99.4 cm) Overall, Frame: 34 3/8 x 43 1/2 x 3 in. (87.3 x 110.5 x 7.6 cm)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch
Where might this event be taking place?
Can you guess why these people are gathered? What do you see that suggests this?
What title would you give to this painting? Why?
The ceremony taking place in Jacob Marling’s The May Queen was described in a Lynchburg, Virginia, newspaper published the same year: “Mr. Marling, so well known for his skill and taste in painting, was present, and sketched a likeness of the May queen, as she appeared in her ensigns of royalty.” The crowning of the May Queen was an English tradition that celebrated the accomplishments of young women each spring by honoring one as the May Queen. Here, the young girl seated at center is Mary Rembert DuBose. Around her are fellow students and teachers at the Raleigh Academy in North Carolina. (The cupola of the state capitol is shown just above the tree line on the right.) At the right of the painting, the Academy’s music instructor and headmaster stand next to a man shown in profile, who is likely the artist himself.
Prior to moving to North Carolina, Marling taught drawing classes at a girls’ schools in Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Petersburg, Virginia. Education in the new nation was mainly a family or local responsibility, not a state obligation. Before the arrival of public education in the South, young ladies from well-to-do families were taught at home by tutors or sent to private ladies’ schools. They were expected to learn how to read, write, do needlework, and achieve proficiency in painting, drawing, elocution, and music. It was not until the Marlings arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina, that they were able to settle. Jacob Marling’s wife, Louisa, taught drawing and painting to the female students of the Raleigh Academy, and Jacob established his practice producing portraits, landscapes, and miniature paintings. This particular painting, The May Queen, is one of the earliest paintings to deal with the subject of women’s education in America.
Who would you have been like if you were someone in the painting by Jacob Marling?
Are there any ceremonies that you have participated in? What were they like?